For a newer arrival to the Death Metal arena from Finland, and a 2 man project no less, PSYCHOPATHIC TERROR definitely have something to offer the old school fan of the genre who can do without all of the excesses of the scene of late. The satirical verses of purposeless gore and violence typical to the Brutal offshoot of the style is absent, along with the indecipherable mess of notes, meandering section switches and detached riff fragments that have dominated the sound of Modern Technical bands. Bands like this are given the label of Death/Thrash metal primarily because the older proto-Death Metal bands and the gradual evolution of sound that closed the 80s stayed relatively close to the Thrash roots of the genre, and “230204” definitely listens closer to a late 80s Death Metal release than anything else.
The first band that immediately jumps out as a primary influence here is BOLT THROWER, particularly their first two albums, although the occasional fragments of early MORBID ANGEL and SUFFOCATION occasionally work their way in and out of some of the riffs. The songs aren’t afraid to slow down and play up a few semi-catchy ideas in between the fits of Thrash sections when called for, and they avoid venturing way out into acoustic land and completely depart from the consistent aggression that occupies the rest of the song. The straightforward nature of the listen actually gives it something of a demo quality, which is further bolstered by the common occurrence of cymbal count-ins preceding these songs, as well as the general consistency of the production, which is fairly low-fidelity but still well within the spectrum of being listenable.
The production itself reminds pretty heavily of NUCLEAR ASSAULT’s “Handle With Care”, which is the only thing that sort of works against what is a winning formula on here. The heavily distorted and low end guitar tracks lack a lot of punch, and are somewhat undermined further by the heavily distorted bass lines that mostly mirror the guitar parts in a few sections. When the songs either Thrash out or go into those heavily tremolo picked Death sections, it’s not overtly noticeable, but whenever the songs take a break and go into one of those lower mid-tempo grooves, it comes off as a little too muddy. A good example is the otherwise catchy as hell slower riff on “Reign Of Terror”, which sounds like a slightly less well produced outtake from CELTIC FROST’s “Monotheist”, which wouldn’t be bad if it didn’t sound out of place amongst the other parts of the song.
The real breath of fresh air that this music offers is a vastly different take on lead guitar breaks and solos when compared to your standard Death Metal band in all of these newer sub-genre offshoots that came out of the mid 1990s. They systematically avoid the all out tonal randomness and all over the place bastardizations of Kerry King and Marty Friedman of most Tech. Death bands, and also steer clear of the comical, minimalist, melodic fragments that tend to appear in many Gothenburg bands. It mostly tends to resemble the Thrash sounding leads put forth by BOLT THROWER and early DARKTHRONE, but with an even more structured and melodic nature. Basically the otherwise consistent flow of this album gives way to a couple of amazing highlights in “Parasite”, “You Are The Next On The List” and “Reign Of Terror” because of the 15 to 25 second lead sections they carry.
For a band of this persuasion hailing from Finland, this is the best thing I’ve heard thus far in recent days, though my experience with Death/Thrash bands from this region is fairly limited. It definitely reaches out to fans of the older style, before Matti Johansson’s current work with the increasingly popular Folk Metal scene raging in the lands of permafrost. If you like the 80s incarnations of DEATH, SEPULTURA, MORBID ANGEL, CARCASS and BOLT THROWER, check this out, you won’t be sorry.
(Online October 6, 2008)